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Bengals mailbag: Long leashes and scheming for wins

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The Cincinnati Bengals are in a state of disarray and the fans are letting the franchise hear about it. Many important players are injured, while the Zac Taylor era has gotten off to an 0-4 start.

John Sheeran and I took the air on Friday afternoon to talk all things Bengals, as they face-off against the fellow winless Cardinals at Paul Brown Stadium this Sunday. At 0-4, patience is already running thin, as evidenced by some of the questions we received.


A main theme among fans this week is in how much patience the Bengals will exercise with Zac Taylor and his staff. It’s only been four games, but two blowout losses and the appearance of this experienced group of coaches being somewhat-obvious has the fan base uneasy.

Look, when Taylor took over the reins from Marvin Lewis, we really didn’t know what to expect from the team this year. Most signs pointed to a transitional year full of struggle, but talented pieces on the roster provided hope for a Lewis-like inaugural campaign back in 2003.

Unfortunately, the former has transpired, as the perceived weaknesses of the roster have cost this team greatly. And, after a solid game plan in Week 1 against the Seahawks, Taylor and Co. have been largely out-coached in many facets.

For instance, the constant substitutions that kept Seattle’s defense on its heels have been far less frequent in the subsequent three weeks. This has been because of immensely poor play on the offensive line, as well as accrued injuries, but things seem to be heading in a backward direction as the weeks pass.

Additionally, Lou Anarumo, who has noticeable flaws on his unit, has made questionable decisions in some of his schemes. For instance, last week against the Steelers, he dialed up plays where both Andrew Billings and Sam Hubbard were dropped into coverage.

Still, the Bengals seem to be committed to see the Taylor experiment through. He’s working with Lewis’ guys and hasn’t really shaped the roster in his image quite yet. Cincinnati’s front office will undoubtedly give him time to bring in his type of players and work his magic.

To that point, this is a front office that has shown painful patience in the face of ineptitude. Whether it was sticking with David Shula and Bruce Coslet during portions of the worst era of the franchise, or keeping Lewis around after that 2015 Wild Card debacle, the Brown family prides itself on its loyalty to certain employees.

The leashes may be shorter for guys like Anarumo, but a little bit of a pass could be given there, too. Last week against Pittsburgh, Cincinnati trailed just 10-3 at the half, and that was after a missed call allowed the Steelers to get into the end zone right before the half.

The offense’s stunning ineptitude has constantly pitted the Bengals’ defense in bad holes. They’ve occasionally bailed them out of trouble, only to see another three-and-out with generous field position given back (because of offensive penalties, or sacks being given up) and then the inevitable fatigue sets in for the group.

You see that there is quite the chicken-and-the egg thing going on here.

Most folks say that year three is truly the critical one for young players and coaches. It truly has given them a chance to hone their skills, grab necessary experience and, for coaches, form the roster to fit their vision.

However, there may be a little bit of a different scenario for the Bengals. The conclusion of year two should be a solid barometer of where things may be heading. Seeing potential improvement by the end of 2019 and the examination of their plan at quarterback, wide receiver, offensive line and wide receiver next offseason should give us a firm grasp on the direction of the franchise under Taylor.

If it still looks like things are going belly-up by that point, it’s going to be interesting to see how itchy of a trigger finger the front office possesses. They claimed that they received the message from fans last year, in terms of their lack of attendance, which prompted their move away from Lewis. If 2019 and 2020 continue to resemble “The Lost Decade”, that may be ample evidence to show everyone that this regime is doomed.

Also on this week’s mailbag episode:

  • Why are the Bengals not running as much two tight end sets?
  • What’s up with Renell Wren?
  • Reflections on the state of the offensive line and Andre Smith.

If you want to have your questions answered in this feature, you can reach us on Twitter @BengalsOBI, via email at, or call/text us at (949) 542-6241. Join us in the live video feeds on the OBI YouTube channel, or on Cincy Jungle’s Facebook account!

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